I'm writing this review from the airplane, as we fly over Nevada, where I'll be in a few short days for the next Garbageaholics Anonymous meeting in Las Vegas (also known as show #3 of the tour). To sum up the past two days....WOWZERS! I met a ton of really fantastic people at the shows, I chatted with Duke and very, very briefly chatted with Butch (two very cool and down to earth guys) and experienced two concerts I will remember for a lifetime. Not a bad way to spend my 30th birthday.
I arrived at the El Rey at about 4:00 and the first thing I hear out of Dan "the Garbage Man's" mouth was "You just missed the band." *doh* All three of the Garbage Men had just wandered out of the venue literally 4 minutes before my friend and I arrived. They stopped over to sign a few autographs and chatted and then went off to do their thing. It became a running joke for the rest of the trip that I needed to leave so all the cool stuff could happen. I missed the band come back when I went off in search of ice cream and a rest room. Strike two.
I didn't see any scalpers at this gig, so requiring will call for the show was extremely effective in making sure the tickets got directly into the hands of the fans. The line wrapped around the block by the time doors opened at 6:30, right on time. The people at The El Rey do not mess around - they run an extremely tight ship and had someone handing out the 21+ wrist bands well before doors opened. The one thing I found a bit odd was that they made everyone dispose of any chewing gum, packs and all. They were actually checking bags for gum. Weird. The working theory is that the venue is a historic building and thus, no gum allowed. Other than having to dispose of a rather fresh pack of gum, picking up the will call tickets was painless and we headed into the venue to secure our spot.
The group of Garbage Board members that had been waiting since 7 AM secured the front row, just to the right of center on Duke's side. My friend and I were to the far right, three people back, in front of Duke and very close to the rest of our group. There were two steps up to a carpeted VIP box on this side, and I was on the first step, so I had a great view, though I did have to shoot photos around heads and arms.
The El Rey is a very cool venue with fantastic sight lines, ornate chandeliers and red carpet. There's a balcony with tables for "gold level" and/or VIP seating, ornate chandeliers, a large and fairly tall stage and overall screams class. It reminded me a lot of Minneapolis' Varsity Theater, but with a more polished or uniform overall feel to the decor. The El Rey was the perfect place for Garbage to make their return.
After arriving inside, we waited for another 90 minutes for opener Laura Escude to take the stage while being treated to an eclectic mix of tunes spun by DJ Darren Revell. This abnormally long wait time allowed everyone in line to get their will call tickets and get inside in time for Escude's enchanting set.
Though I'm a die hard Garbage fan and was extremely excited to see them perform for the second time ever, I was also quite interested in seeing Laura Escude's set. She's a violinist, composer and electronic musician, and as a violinist myself, I always love seeing acts that include live violin. Her stage setup was fairly simple: a laptop with a couple of illuminated looping/mixing gadgets atop a stand, and a 5 string traditional style violin. Her set was fairly ethereal and atmospheric but at the same time included some very nice, fat beats.
There's a great photo of her rig on her official Tumblr. The set concluded with an unreleased remix of an M83 song. so look for that soon. Laura Escude is a woman of many talents, including the show (music) tech design for the Garbage tour, and I highly recommend checking out her official website to learn more.
At 9 pm on the dot, Garbage's intro music came on: Time Will Destroy Everything, a song recorded during the Not Your Kind of People sessions, but not included in any edition of the album. It will be interesting to see where this song ultimately surfaces. It's quite electronic and funky, even employing vocoded vocals, which isn't something they've done a lot in the past and I definitely look forward to hearing the full song.
The lights were dark when the boys in the band took the stage and started into Supervixen. And then, with a flash of light, Shirley Manson strutted up to the microphone and the crowd, which had been waiting 7 or more years for this moment, completely erupted. Shirley Manson hasn't lost a thing in the 7 year hiatus and owned the stage with her presence and charisma. It seems The Queen got her way on the wardrobe of the evening and Steve, Butch and Duke were all dressed up in dress shirts and ties. Shirley came out looking very regal, wearing a gorgeous grey, white and red shawl over..well..I'll just show you...
The shawl and high heels came off fairly quickly, allowing Shirley much more mobility. The set was fast paced and there was little time spent talking between songs, perhaps due in part to nerves, though the lack of banter was the only indication that the band may have been nervous. It certainly didn't show in the music. When Shirley did speak to the crowd, she was extremely gracious, humble and genuine. This is one of the reasons why I love Garbage so much...in addition to the fantastic music they make, all four band members are very well grounded, caring and understand how special and how lucky they are to be in the position that they are, after 7 years away, selling out night after night to a room full of adoring fans. Yes, we do still care. And it's great to know that the band doesn't take any of it for granted.
The set list was a great mix of old and new, singles and album cuts. Not My Idea, #1 Crush and Cherry Lips were all pleasant surprises for me. These songs weren't played when I saw the band for the first time in Minneapolis in 2005 and #1 Crush and Not My Idea, in particular, have a special place in my heart.
- (Intro: Time Will Destroy Everything)
- Temptation Waits
- Not My Idea
- Metal Heart
- Stupid Girl
- Why Do You Love Me
- #1 Crush
- The trick is to keep breathing
- Blood for Poppies
- Man on a Wire
- Battle in Me
- Bad Boyfriend
- Only Happy When It Rains
- Push It
The new songs sound fantastic live, but I especially enjoyed hearing Blood for Poppies live. Duke strapped on his big and beautiful red Guild Stratfire III, and the main guitar riff took on an entirely new life in the live setting. The crowd knew all the words to the new singles, Blood for Poppies (US) and Battle in Me (UK). This surprised some reviewers, but this was a crowd full of die hard fans. Why would you expect otherwise? Blood for Poppies has been added to numerous radio playlists, the band gave away the single via their website prior to the iTunes release, and it's available for purchase on the US iTunes store. Of course the crowd would know all the words! And Battle in Me, while not available on iTunes in the US, is available via the 7digital.com UK store. Many of us have already purchased both singles via digital download or have been hitting the "replay" button on the band's YouTube channel.
After Blood for Poppies, Shirley paused for a moment to address the crowd. She taunted us, asking if we're risk takers and gamblers and wanted to hear a new song, or if we wanted to play it safe and hear something we knew. The fans, of course, very enthusiastically chose the new material and the band busted out Man on a Wire. It begins with a funky punk rock guitar riff with a very 4/4 quarter note snare drum part that wouldn't be out of place in a White Stripes song. A few measures in, Shirley joins the band and the song is turned up to 11. I am pretty sure this is going to be a fan favorite and crowd was very into this one.
The crowd definitely needed a rest after Vow, Blood for Poppies and Man on a Wire and so the placement of Milk next in the set list was perfect. The cool blue lights in combination with the white spotlight on Shirley was absolutely spectacular.
After the crowd's little breather came Only Happy When It Rains. This has never been my favorite Garbage song, but the new arrangement is incredible. It starts out ballad style, with Shirley's vocals front and center, accompanied by an almost synthesized strings and acoustic sounding guitar. The new intro made a fantastic transition between the two previous slow songs before kicking things into high gear for the last time of the regular set. After the gorgeous intro, the drums (and bass) kick in for the chorus....toms and bass drum, all 8th notes...building the tension for the explosion that is the second verse, which is played in traditional fashion. The whole re-worked first verse and first chorus gave me chills.
The energy was electric after Only Happy When it Rains and the band turned up the dial a bit more by closing out the regular set with Push It. The crowd responded in kind by singing along and completely belting out the chorus. It was a great way to end to the regular set. The band made us wait quite a while for the encore, well over 3 minutes, and the crowd continued to go crazy during the entire break.
The lights were phenomenal for both shows, with beautiful blues, reds, yellows and greens, white spotlights, and a touch of smoke to create the perfect atmosphere for a Garbage show. They were classy and cool with a white spotlight on Shirley for the slower songs like Milk and The Trick is to Keep Breathing, bright and energetic for songs like Man on a Wire, and varied and interesting without being distracting for everything else. It was also fairly bright for most of the show, which made taking photos less challenging for my little point and shoot (though I did have to employ my new concert photography technique of "set the mode to continuous, hold down the shutter and pray to the photography gods").
After the show, my Garbage Board friends and I stuck around as long as we could inside, hoping the band would come out. We even waiting in line for merch...again...just so security wouldn't shoo us out. But finally, they did ask us to leave and we headed toward the El Rey's back door. It was there that we met up with several other board members and fans hoping to catch the band on their way out. Every single Garbage fan I've met has been very fun, smart, caring and cool and we had a great time just hanging out and chatting. Security politely asked us to keep our voices down, as there are apartments on the street and they didn't want the neighbors to call the police. We thought we were totally going to catch the band on their way out when we saw security outside, but it was not to be.
We finally got tired of waiting and headed to the front and Steve and Duke both came out shortly after, chatted, and graciously signed anything they were asked to sign. I didn't get to meet Steve, but I did have the opportunity to talk to Duke and he was as nice, cool and funny as I expected. I wish I had thought to get my ticket stub signed! I'm not sure how it's possible that we missed Shirley, but we did. She must have left out the back when we were chatting with Duke and Steve. But maybe some day I'll get to meet her and thank her. My life today would be significantly different if it were not for Garbage and specifically Shirley Manson.
All in all, April 9 was a fantastic day. I am so glad to have met so many other fans and to see my all time favorite band for their first show in 7 years was incredible.
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